Why did Miyamoto Musashi use 2 swords

Miyamoto Musashi

He is a legend among the samurai - Miyamoto Musashi, a warrior who fought his first fight with a trained samurai at the tender age of just twelve and emerged victorious. He was also the leading actor in films and literature, such as the three-part cinema series "Samurai". But who was he really?

Miyamoto Musashi (native Shinmen Musashi), born in 1584, grew up in the village of Miyamoto, which was in the historic Mimasaka Province (today: Okayama Prefecture on the island of Honshu).

Musashi came into contact with war culture at an early age, as his father Hirata Munisai was a country samurai who married Shinmen Omasa and who later also bore her family name. He called himself "Shinmen Musashi no Kami Fujiwara Harunobu", where "Harunobu" was his so-called Imina, his real name, which was no longer used after the death of a person. "Fujiwara" was the name of an important ruling clan from which the family of his mother Shinmen Omasa descended, and "Musashi no Kami" made him the governor of his home province. It is also known that he was named "Bennosuke" as a child and used a pseudonym called "Niten" (German: "two heavens") or "Niten Dōraku". However, he was dubbed "Musashi".

From an early age he was known for his strength and ferocity. Very tall and sturdy for his age, he killed the samurai Arima Kihei at the age of twelve, who had set up his banner in the middle of the village and claimed to be able to overpower any opponent with sword and spear. Apparently this irritated Musashi so much that he threw the warrior to the ground and killed him with a stick.

When he was thirteen, he had to fight for the first time in a life and death duel. Nevertheless, he was a very religious person and was not satisfied with pure fighting. He proved himself in duels with the bokutō (wooden sword) and a katana, which he also carved from wood himself.

At the age of sixteen he left the province of Mimasaka to embark on a journey across Japan. Since then he has been known by his current name as Musashi Miyamoto. He made a name for himself in several fights, six wars (including the Battle of Sekigahara) and is said to have won 60 duels - including against Shishido Baiken, who was a master at fighting the sickle chain.

However, Musashi was best known for his unusual fighting style: he used both swords at the same time.
Samurai usually wore the so-called “Daishō pair” (German: large-small), i.e. a long katana and a short wakizashi, but it was rather unusual to use both swords at the same time. Usually a samurai fought with his katana at this time and only when he lost it or had to fight in tight spaces did he use the wakizashi, which was actually used for ritual purposes. However, Musashi explained his fighting technique in the following words:

"[...] to become aware of the effectiveness of the two swords - that is what the Nito ryu is about [...] because it is true that you should use all the weapons you have instead of throwing your life away. To die with an unused weapon in his belt, that would be unfortunate. "
Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

Musashi had become the enemy of many princes, so several samurai were sent to kill him, but he succeeded in destroying them all beforehand. He was considered a ronin, an abandoned samurai, and learned from other samurai and ronin who came to his home village. In this way he was able to refine and improve his fighting style, which he called "Niten Ichiryu".

However, he already laid down his weapons in his late 20s to look for a deeper meaning in martial arts. He fought his last fight with Sasaki Kojirō, then one of the most famous samurai, and overcame it with a self-carved wooden sword from a boat oar.
When Musashi stopped fighting, he built several temples and schools, including a school for guard blade makers (Japanese tsuba), as he was still very religious. He also worked as a craftsman and artist, painting screens, creating works of art in metal and doing calligraphy. Today these works are considered masterpieces. You can often recognize them by the so-called "Musashi-Tsuba", a guard sheet with two intertwined rings.

In old age Musashi retired to the Reigandō cave to write his book Gorin no Shō ("The Book of the Five Rings"), for which he is best known today. A few weeks before he died, he gave the finished work to his student Terao Magonojo, which with its generally formulated theses is still used today in management theory and contains many wisdoms. Musashi died on June 13, 1645.

He is still revered as "Kensei" (dt. Sword saint) and even today his teachings are considered useful and valid in all areas of life. We know that he taught several students, starting with Jotaro and Sannosuke Iori.
Author: Teresa Schießl / toast95
Editor: Jennifer Brox
Graphic designer: Nathalie Schöps / unknown
Date d. Article: 10.04.2012
Image copyright: Wikimedia Commons